Here we are, the weekend after Thanksgiving, and the Christmas shopping season is in full swing - not to be confused with the regular shopping season, which is year-round, at least for my lovely wife, Lisa, and our two daughters.
I am sure a lot of people will put a lot of thought and consideration into purchasing just the right gift for that special friend or loved one, but the right gifts aren't the ones on my mind today. The gifts on my mind are the ones that you open and your first thought is "What were they thinking?"
You know the gifts I speak of. We're not just talking a too-loud tie or an ugly sweater here. We are talking about gifts that are truly remarkable in their uselessness. We are talking about articles of clothing, for instance, that Sarah Palin wouldn't wear to a moose hunt, or other items so impractical that their very production proves the P.T. Barnum adage, "There's a sucker born every minute."
For instance, one year I got a metal case full of poker chips for Christmas - for my big gift. I ain't making this up, y'all. My wife gave me a big metal suitcase full of poker chips. I think it was around about the time Texas Hold 'Em was catching on big, and they must have gotten stuck with an abundance of those poker chip sets at the Big Lots or something and Lisa got me one.
This would probably be a good place to insert the fact that I have never played a single hand of poker in my life - except for a game we had in a particular girl's apartment during college, for which chips were not necessary. That ugly outfit that Sarah Palin wouldn't wear might have come in handy for that particular game, but poker chips weren't necessary.
So there you go. I opened the gift and immediately thought, "What were you thinking?"
It could have been worse, of course. At least it wasn't a salad shooter.
I have been on the opposite end of that same gift quandary, however. Way back yonder - we're talking 12 or 15 years ago - I bought Lisa what I was certain would be the perfect gift. It was a little gadget that would "quickly and safely remove unwanted body hair" through electrolysis, or some such process with a name that sounded like it was lifted from a high school science book.
Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Every time I headed for the reading room with a Sports Illustrated, she was sitting on the tub shaving her legs - and clogging up my good razor, I might add. The ads for this gadget claimed that you only had to use it a couple of times a year and it was supposed to be less painful than waxing and not nearly as much trouble.
To her credit, my wife did try to use her new gift one time - which is more times than I used my poker chips - and she screamed so loudly that I thought she had uncovered the body of Jimmy Hoffa in the bottom of our bathroom closet. According to her, if one of those electrolysis deals fell into the hands of our enemies, not even Jack Bauer would be able to keep a secret.
Torture device. Get it?
People like to give me Georgia Bulldog stuff for Christmas (wonder why?) and truth be known, I like to get Georgia Bulldog stuff. Having said that, you wouldn't believe what I got from my brother-in-law one year - unless you gave a similar item to your own brother-in-law. It was a long, thin, insulated tube that you strapped across one shoulder and around your back - like an archer's quiver or a Confederate soldier's bedroll. It would hold six cans of your favorite cold beverage - ostensibly beer, but I drink beer less frequently than I play Texas Hold 'Em, and I have yet to find a need to walk around with half-a-dozen cans of Coca-Cola strapped to my back, but it was red and had the Georgia Bulldog logo emblazoned across it, so there you go. Hey, it's the thought that counts.
But I would really rather have a salad shooter.
I think the worst gift we ever gave one of our children was a rock tumbler, but that was different. Our oldest child, Jamie, actually put that one on her Christmas list herself. What Jamie wants, Jamie gets - so we ordered a rock tumbler from the Sears-Roebuck catalogue. We filled that sucker up with rocks and water and plugged it in in the garage and about a month later we had - well, we had clean rocks.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. And right this very moment, even as you read this missive, someone out there has a similar gift under his or her tree with your name on it.
Let me know what you got. Maybe I'll trade you a set of poker chips and a rock tumbler for a salad shooter and a gift to be named later.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.